It seems we had an election last week.
Did y’all hear that?
These months, alas, years, leading up to it have shown the divide in our country like nothing we’ve seen since the Civil War. Although this very divide has been growing for quite some time.
You’ve seen this as well, right?
And ah, the hate spewed on social media. My goodness. I’ve read with chagrin turned to horror people’s posts.
I wrote a while back about keeping your friends through this campaign. It got a lot of comments.
But that even seems passé at this point.
On election day, I read with a sense of hope all the FB posts about: At least all this hate will all be over today!
Then Wednesday morning, of course, awoke to the absolute opposite.
With horror I saw the litany of posts spewing more venom. From both sides.
From people I know more than virtually.
Just one said, “For all the people who’ve made fun of my conservative values the last 8 years, go eat shit.”
Now, that’s how we bring our country together.
For the first time ever I unfriended someone on FB.
Now, full disclosure—my candidate did not win.
Am I sad, worried, concerned for our country?
Yes, I am.
Do I want those who disagree with me to go eat shit?
That would be a big fat resounding no.
One thing we know from this long campaign season, is that half of this country has felt disenfranchised over the past 8 years. And longer.
And we can say for certain now, that half of the country feels disenfranchised today.
But aside from some of the baser instincts coming to the fore, most of us want the same thing—what’s best for this country. For us. Even if we don’t know how to get there.
I had a long conversation with a dear friend the night after the election. She voted differently from how I did. Our talk was respectful. I could see some of her points. And she could understand mine. We agreed to disagree on many.
But on most, we agreed.
She is still a dear friend of mine.
Of course, both candidates had huge negatives. Our choices weren’t between Jesus and Buddha. This made people truly uneasy.
And when folks are uneasy, they vote from the fear in their hearts, not their heads. And somewhere in the mix, the actual issues got lost.
That’s politics, no?
In my lifetime, politics has been a dirty business. Really dirty. Although it’s pretty much always been, to some degree.
Think this one was bad? Most scholars agree that the dirtiest political campaign belonged to the Andrew Jackson/John Quincy Adams contest of 1828.
No wonder citizens get disgusted.
Again, full disclosure here—my degree is in Political Science. I’m your basic poly-wonk. Because the devil truly is in the weeds of things.
And of course, the point of a campaign is to win. At all costs. As Lord Acton famously said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
But none of this could occur without us, the voting public, allowing it.
Do I believe there are enormous stakes here?
Yes, I do. Oh, yes, I do.
Issues I care hugely about. And can debate the actual facts of.
So I’m more troubled that people didn’t vote on these stakes, or those values, or the actual issues. They voted on sound bites and political lies. On things I couldn’t care less about.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, will change until we do.
The big sentiment now, on social media and with the people I speak with, is: “The election is done. Get over it!”
But that’s very difficult to do, and indeed, not terribly sane, if you’re in one of those groups who feel disenfranchised.
And when not just livelihood is at stake, but in the climate of this campaign season, one’s very existence.
Groups of people who have been called out not for their transgressions, but for being who they are.
I’m not LGBT. But I have friends and family who are. I can vouch that they’ve had to walk difficult roads for decades. Not only from societal discrimination (and often from their own families), but legal discrimination as well.
I’ve been there with them. Many of the hoops they’ve had to jump through for basic rights—such as even being listed as next of kin to see loved ones in ICU—have been truly scary.
Their legal gains have been hard fought. And now, they’re terrified of losing them.
They have reason to be. Can you hear them?
I’m not Hispanic. But I have friends and family who are. And neighbors. None of them are rapists or murderers. They’re wonderful, hard-working folks.
Some have been citizens for generations. Some are first-generation immigrants.
And many are afraid.
Can you hear them?
I’m not black. But I have friends and neighbors who are. The outcry of, “Well, you wouldn’t go to jail if you weren’t out committing crimes,” may indeed be true in some cases.
But I can guarantee you—young black men truly are often stopped and questioned for being black. I’m not going to quote statistics here, but rather, from personal experience. I don’t need to question whether these stories are real. I know men this has happened to—personally.
The fear in black communities is real. I’ve felt that same fear as the boys here who’ve grown into fine young men make their way in this world.
Can you feel their fear?
I’m not Muslim. But I have editorial clients who have become friends who are. A man from Pakistan and one from Iraq. Both write beautiful novels about what life was and is like for folks from the Middle East. Novels that reach into the essence of the human soul.
Two finer, sweeter, more ethical men, I’m not sure I’ve ever met.
That they could be caught up in some racial-profiling net terrifies them, as it does their families.
They’ve been told through this campaign season that this would happen.
Can you imagine their fear? Can you hear it?
I’m not Jewish. But I have dear friends and almost family (I was engaged to a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, and we’re still very close) who are.
Breitbart News, the site chaired by President-elect Trump’s newly named chief strategist Steve Bannon, is widely known as a platform for white nationalism and anti-Semitism. In May, Breitbart ran a column with a headline calling anti-Trump conservative writer Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.”
Kistol is a very conservative Republican.
While still at Breitbart, Bannon told Mother Jones in an August interview, “We’re the platform for the alt-right.”
The alt-right — a loose movement that has gained prominence during this election season — promotes white nationalism and has been accused of being racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic.
Haven’t we been down this road before? And if history serves, it didn’t work out very well . . .
If you were Jewish, wouldn’t you be deeply afraid? Aren’t you anyway?
I am, however, female. And a woman’s right to the autonomy over her own body is of paramount importance to me.
So are issues such as spousal abuse and the denigration of women in general.
So, too, is sexual harassment in the workplace.
In an interview with USA Today, Candidate Trump responded to a question of what his daughter Ivanka should do if sexually harassed.
“I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case,” Trump said.
I have no printable response to that. Can you hear my fear?
We’re also seeing lots of play upon who has a President and who doesn’t. And without going into all the ins and outs of that, when asked whether Trump is my President, my answer is yes.
Yes, he is.
I’m a citizen of these United States. I pay my taxes, and have voted in every single election since I turned 18. Whether I voted for the candidate who won or not, the person who’s elected is indeed my President.
But there’s a fundamental truth here, which has gotten entirely lost in this process:
I don’t pay politicians to “lead” me. I pay them to represent my interests.
And to do that, I have to actually know what my interests are.
Which I know well.
It also makes an enormous difference if I can hear the concerns of folks in groups I’m not part of.
Can you hear them?
And before you rail against the “other side,” remember for a second who that “other side” is.
It’s your friends, your family, your spouses even.
My friend with whom I disagreed? For the first time in their 40-year marriage, she and her spouse voted differently.
And yes, they’re still married. Still respect and love one another.
SNL, for only the third time in its history, aired a cold opening Saturday night. Kate McKinnon, who has been satirizing Hillary Clinton this campaign season, opened without jokes, but instead singing Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluiah.”
It brought home, if nothing else, that half of this country isn’t going to just “get by this,” as so many keep loudly saying.
Emotions run deep.
So when you tell that half of the country to “get over it,” what people hear is:
The issues they face don’t matter.
Their visceral fear doesn’t matter.
They themselves don’t matter.
I can hear (and will surely hear from) folks angrily reacting to this. But rest assured I’m not attacking anyone’s beliefs. And will be most happy to debate them—while remaining respectful.
I only ask that you pause, take a deep breath, and remember that none of us have all the answers.
There is no politician on this planet who can bring us together. Nor “heal” this nation.
Only we can.
If we can listen to one another, have civil discourse, try to understand why another holds a different belief and how that relates to our country, to our Constitution, be willing to look at where our own beliefs might contain a flaw, if we can do all of that, then politicians cannot divide us for their own power and gain.
Unless we let them.
The second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence begins:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Do you hear what I hear?